these changes in everyday Cherokee life.
Acculturation, however, was not absolute. "Most full-bloods were illiterate, did not speak English, and did not live according to the values of the Protestant ethic."37 The Cherokee census of 1835 "indicates that almost 40 percent of households in the Nation contained no literate members," in English, and "less than 10 percent of the Cherokees were even nominal Christians."38 The wealthy mixed-blood slaveholders who held political office, however, were overwhelmingly Christian, literate, and owned property. While not absolute, assimilation still occurred on an unprecedented scale, and changed the face of Cherokee society immeasurably.
Western institutions were often amalgamated with Cherokee ones. Southern slaveholding practices were hybridized with captive/adoption practices, and were, generally, less repressive. Western democratic institutions were grafted onto informal tribal democratic practices. Missionary education was used by the mixed-blood upper class both to further their own economic goals and to further civic-minded protectionist policies compatible with traditionalist concepts of tribal unity and social harmony. The Cherokee used their language to prove to the white world they were on equal terms.
The question that stands before us, then, remains: if the Cherokee had, by all appearances, adopted Western civilization to such a degree that their society resembled the United States more than any other indigenous society in the world at this time, why were they removed from their lands in 1838? The answer is a frighteningly simple one: Gold, Land, and Fear.
II. A Tornado. The Battle of Removal
In 1815, a Cherokee boy "playing along Chestatee river, in upper Georgia…brought in to his mother a shiny yellow pebble hardly larger than the end of his thumb. On being washed it proved to be a nugget of gold, and on her next trip to the settlements the woman carried it with her and sold it to a white man."39
37. Spring, 101.
38. Theda Perdue, introduction to Cherokee Editor, 28.
39. James Mooney, Historical Sketch of the Cherokee (Chicago: Aldine Publishing Company, 1975), 110.